Bush and Cheney Critics May Be Too Generous
By Devin Nordberg
A growing number of critics accuse the Bush administration of inciting war against Iraq to divert attention from our crumbling economy, corporate corruption and Bush's attacks on environmental protections and our personal freedoms. After all, we call several other brutal dictatorships our allies, including Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, so why is Bush so determined to topple Saddam Hussein?
But perhaps the critics are too generous to suspect merely political gamesmanship or settling a score for dad, for the allies and enemies that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney choose are exactly those of the oil industry they still serve.
Iraq crossed western oil corporations 30 years ago, and the oil executives have long memories. In 1972, Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath party nationalized the oil holdings of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which actually was owned by a group of western oil companies including Royal Dutch and American and French firms.
The U.S. and Britain launched an embargo of Iraq in an attempt to persuade Hussein to re-privatize oil -- a tactic that succeeded for the U.S. when it embargoed Iran in retaliation for nationalizing its oil industry in 1951. In that case the economic squeeze was topped off with a CIA-assisted coup and "regime change," which instituted the Shah as the new leader in 1953. Obediently, the Shah agreed to let British and American oil companies take over oil production again.
But when the U.S. instigated an embargo against Iraq, Hussein simply found a new customer-- the Soviet Union. Good timing also helped Iraq "get away" with nationalization. A year after Iraq nationalized its oil, the eleven members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to pricing solidarity and forced oil importing countries to pay dramatically more for oil. The OPEC cartel gained the upper hand in negotiating with western oil companies and insulated Iraq from economic attack.
Near the time of Iraq's oil nationalization, Hussein made a peace offer to the dissident Kurds in Iraq, who were warring against his regime. The Kurds were about to accept his offer, but President Nixon offered them $16 million in weapons as incentive to keep fighting--and they did (with additional help from the Shah of Iran).
During the subsequent Iran-Iraq war, U.S. officials facilitated arms sales to Iraq (while Israel sold arms to Iran) not so much to support Hussein, but to perpetuate the bloody war and punish Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who overthrew our hand-picked dictator, the Shah.
After Iraq won that devastating war, Hussein continued to pursue independent economic development rather than letting transnational corporations reap profit from his country's resources. He worked to form the Arab Cooperation Council to join Iraq with Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen in a regional trading bloc.
Not surprisingly, the Gulf War of 1991 was welcomed by President George Bush Sr. as an excuse to bring down Hussein. Just eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, U.S. ambassador April Glaspie told Hussein that the Administration had "no opinion" regarding Iraq's "border dispute" with Kuwait. U.S. intelligence learned of the invasion plans several days in advance, but no deterrence was attempted.
Although we don't know that Bush Sr. deliberately baited Iraq, skeptics should consider that President Carter's Secretary of State, Zbigniew Brzezinski, publicly bragged that the U.S. funded the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan six months before the Soviet Union invaded (in 1979) in an attempt to provoke the Soviets into an "unwinnable" war.
Western oil companies still aim to repossess Iraq's oil, and they need Hussein removed to do it. So it shouldn't surprise us that Bush's war drums haven't missed a beat even after Hussein conceded to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors in September.
Mr. Bush seems to continue our tendency to base alliances less on a nation's degree of democracy, peacefulness, or freedom than whether they open markets to transnational corporations. Thus, China gets friendly relations while Cuba gets sanctions and Iraq gets threats of annihilation.
It's a serious decision to send our soldiers to war to defend our national security; for Mr. Bush to send them into battle to serve corporate oil interests would be tantamount to treason.